Saturday, February 12, 2005


Yee-Hah! (Wha?...)

The Daily Telegraph (reg. req.) reviews Tony Gould's new book Don't Fence Me In: From Curse to Cure, Leprosy in Modern Times:

The terrible truth is that leprosy is a most unromantic disease which rots the flesh of poverty-stricken black or brown people in distant lands. Thus it took some time to work out why Tony Gould's biography was so compelling, until one realised that his main subject was not so much the disease but an extended meditation on human goodness – why should people dedicate their lives to caring for the most miserable and oppressed of all?....

Father Damien arrived at the Hawaiian leper colony of Molokai in 1873 to find almost 1,000 "unfortunate outcasts of society" living in makeshift huts, the smell of whose bodies, mixed with the foul odour of their festering sores was apparently "unbearable to a newcomer". The burials in the graveyard were perfunctory, with corpses frequently interned so shallowly that scavenging dogs and wild pigs soon exposed their putrid flesh....

Inevitably, for his years of work comforting them, Father Damien himself eventually got leprosy and died a medical martyr.

Though not mentioned in the Telegraph review, Gould previously authored A Summer Plague: Polio and Its Survivors, and is indeed himself a polio survivor. I don't see a US release for his latest listed on Amazon, though Barnes & Noble has a undated placekeeper listing by St Martin's set aside for Gould under the title A Disease Apart, which does strike me as a rather less confusing title.

Oh, imagine the shock all those country music fans are in for if they pick up the British edition...

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